This post describes one of the key ideas from the upcoming book "Grow Together: Gain Clarity and Momentum in Your Tech Leadership Career"
When you feel stuck on the way to your long term goals or confused about what those goals should even be – don't despair – you don't need to know everything!
The only question you need to answer is what to do next?
Now or Not Now
A common cause of stuckness is trying to consider all options one by one.
If you consider each idea on it's own you will become overwhelmed.
You can never implement all ideas that have some value. Most of them do.
On the other hand our human instinct is to not lose good ideas so you might invest a lot in trying to capture and organize those ideas for easy reference later.
This is almost always a waste of time and a breeding ground for procrastination.
Instead notice that there is only one real decision to make about priorities:
- not now
The NOW category is inherently limited. Even if you're working with a big and super-competent team you can only do so much in a given day, week or month.
This means that the key question is not "Which ideas are good ideas?", but rather "What is most important now given our limited resources?".
So what about the not now category? Aren't there good ideas there too.
But I submit that most of the time it's safe and efficient to just delete them.
When the time comes to make another planning decision you will have a bunch of new ideas available. If one of the ideas you have on your list now is truly great it will probably resurface. If not then maybe it's for the best for it to be forgotten.
There's a relatively small subset of ideas that are unlikeley to reappear but also important not to forget – go ahead and store them (perhaps in your calendar). Use this sparingly otherwise your will end up right where you started – overwhelmed and stuck under the weight of too many options.
Another common source of stuckness is trying to make optimal decisions.
As a physics/math/cs student I was steeped in the kind of problems that have concrete solutions and commonly the task called for finding the absolute best one.
This is impossible in most real life situations.
You just don't have the information or the processing power to shoot for optimal.
What you can do instead is what the military might call reconnaissance by combat. Attack the problem in front of you and learn from the experience.
Instead of optimal your next step should be good enough for now, safe enough to try and short enough to learn quickly.
Ship something every week
If you're stuck or confused get unstuck by shipping something in under one week.
If you're clear and running full steam ahead also consider extracting smaller chunks you can ship within a week. People will benefit sooner and you might find out something surprising and adjust your long term plans.
How to chose what to ship:
- Can it be done in under a week?
- If successful, will it make someone's life better?
- Can you learn from it?
Plan it, do it, then reflect on it.
Now what are you going to ship this week?